PRIDE, PROTESTS, AND ASSIMILATION
Written by Estevan Hernandez
You are walking at a Pride event and you see a group of Protesters appear out of nowhere, and they begin to yell, chant, and try to steal your attention. How do you react? Of course, you are used to the protesters with hateful messages next to Christian crosses on their signs, those that get off once a year by telling that you you are going to hell, but these are a different set of protesters. First, you try to figure out exactly what is going on, right? But even before that, you know these protesters are different because you see the color of their skin; a group of black and brown people marching valiantly ahead of you leaving flames behind them that burned you up inside. You’re caught off guard and you likely become angry, because how dare they take your comfort away from you on your special day. Did you know that the anger you felt towards the reveal of injustice at Pride is complicit with capitalist assimilation? The reason we celebrate Pride is because Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and many other trans and queer folks of color said no to police brutality and the clutch that capitalism had on their bodies. This is what pride should be: an angry liberation march demanding inclusivity. This resistance is in fact what we’ve seen recently at Pride events, brought to us by Black and brown protesters, but the tendency to silence activists by other marchers and parade watchers has been terrifying and extremely familiar.
Last year in Toronto, Black Lives Matter activists knew that they would not be heard unless they did something out of the ordinary, so they decided to stop their float right in the middle of the Toronto Pride Parade because it was the only way to get everyone’s eyes and ears on them. They's had enough of the erasure, displacement, and violence that both Pride and its partners inflicted on the Black queer community. While voicing their concerns, they demanded Indigenous visibility at Pride remains alive, and were also the first group at Toronto Pride that included sign language translation. Regardless of the work that they did to keep the community power alive and visible at Pride, funding in the parade had not increased since 2009, their truck was stationed near the back of the parade, and their list of demands had been continuously brushed aside. Because of this, they did not move their truck until Pride Toronto’s organizer came and signed their full list of demands, which included the support of community stages, including the renewal of the South Asian stage, and more diversity in the hiring and staffing of Pride Toronto.
After visibly seeing the distaste of the crowd, one activist said, “If you think this is an inconvenience, you need to know that we cannot live without our lives.” Rolled eyes, dirty looks, and physically violent gestures made way over the parade watchers. You could hear tons of booing and the collective chant “move that truck, move that truck!” rose from the crowd. This anger from frustrated, mostly white Pride-goers is triggering because not only does it bring flashbacks of state-sanctioned violence against queer folks, but it reminds us of white queer america’s complicity in the progression of racist laws and their hostility towards marginalized queer presence. This collective opposition to protesters of color demanding inclusion is an act of assimilation into white supremacist capitalism. Those who continue to silence protesters are participating in similar silencing tactics that government agencies and big business leaders have done to workers and activists in the past. The gay community is not exempt from any of this. As long as people are silent, capitalism progresses. This is exactly what many white queer people did and are doing at Pride: silencing the truth, which then helps to preserve an oppressive agenda.
This year at Capital Pride in Washington D.C, a similar act of resistance occurred. A collective under the hashtag #NOJUSTICENOPRIDE, which includes many organizers and activists, came together to advocate for the most marginalized groups in the LGBTQIA+ community by shutting D.C.’s Pride parade down for as long as they could. They marched in the parade and formed a blockade that completely stopped the parade for a good amount of time. The #NOJUSTICENOPRIDE activists had huge banners that have been spread all over social media that read “No Pride in Prisons, Pipelines, and Deportations,” “No Pride In Police Violence,” and “Wells Fargo = Native Genocide.” You could hear booing and screaming from the crowd: “We wanted one day, no.. no”, a younger person screamed towards the protestors. A violent white man even screamed, “Come on you fuckers, come on!” signaling the protesters to come near him as a call to a fight. Not only were the Pride viewers annoyed, but they were getting physically and verbally violent-as if the protesting harmed them in some way. You could see the the complicity to white supremaist capitalism right in front of you-in people who do not care about your existence. Security and police tried making something work but the parade was eventually rerouted.
All of the booing and “get out of here!” are just reminders that white America does not care about the safety of people of color, even within an already marginalized community. They want to continue in the same cycle of capitalist assimilation that makes it easier for capitalism’s agenda to continue enhancing itself before our eyes. The same white queer people getting angry at the mere fact of folks speaking about the violence inflicted against their communities are no worse than the government imprisoning activists-it is all like a domino effect. The white LGBTQIA community and its agents are aiding in oppression by silencing our voices at protests and, yes, even at places like Pride that are supposed to be inclusive and about liberation. The white LGBTQ community wants to normalize violence and imperialism, so that is why they get angry when people of color collectively come together to protest their “unity” events. There is no pride when there is police violence, mass incarceration, black trans death, and when the same corporations you are marching with helped fund the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is not just a time to be full of pride-but a time to say enough is enough is enough.